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General News of Tuesday, 21 April 2020

Source: GNA

Coronavirus threatening the right to reliable information – RSF

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The 2020 World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) says moving into the next decade will be a crucial period for journalism, exacerbated by coronavirus, which threatens the right to reliable information.

The 20th edition of the index shows that the coming decade will be decisive for the future of journalism, with the COVID-19 pandemic “highlighting and amplifying” the many crises that threaten the right to freely reported, independent, diverse and reliable information.

The index, which evaluated the situation for journalists each year in 180 countries and territories, suggested that the next 10 years would be pivotal for press freedom because of converging crises affecting the future of journalism.

The RSF in a statement to the Ghana News Agency on Tuesday listed those “converging crisis” as geo-political crisis due to the aggressiveness of authoritarian regimes and a technological crisis due to a lack of democratic guarantees.

It also included; a democratic crisis due to polarisation and repressive policies; a crisis of trust due to suspicion and even hatred of the media; and an economic crisis impoverishing quality journalism.

The statement said effects of the crises were “now compounded by a global public health crisis.”

“We are entering a decisive decade for journalism linked to crises that affect its future,” RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire was quoted.

“The coronavirus pandemic illustrates the negative factors threatening the right to reliable information, with the pandemic itself an exacerbating factor. What will freedom of information, pluralism and reliability look like in 2030? The answer to that question is being determined today.”

The statement said there was a clear correlation between suppression of media freedom in response to the coronavirus pandemic, and a country’s ranking in the Index.

It noted that both China (177th) and Iran (down 3 at 173rd) censored their major coronavirus outbreaks extensively. In Iraq (down 6 at 162nd), the authorities stripped Reuters of its licence for three months after it published a story questioning official coronavirus figures.

Even in Europe, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán of Hungary (down 2 at 89th), had a “coronavirus” law passed with penalties of up to five years in prison for false information, a completely disproportionate and coercive measure, it said.

Deloire said, “The public health crisis provides authoritarian governments with an opportunity to implement the notorious “shock doctrine” to take advantage of the fact that politics are on hold, the public is stunned and protests are out of the question, in order to impose measures that would be impossible in normal times.

“For this decisive decade not be a disastrous one, people of goodwill, whoever they are, must campaign for journalists to fulfil their role as society’s trusted third parties, which means they must have the capacity to do so.”

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